U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts urged a quick confirmation of a new FBI director and voiced opposition to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia the day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Trump’s decision to fire Comey comes at a time when the FBI is investigating ties between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign. Roberts, a Kansas Republican and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he did not agree with Democrats’ calls to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate connections between Trump and Russia.
“We got rid of it some years ago because it was so ineffective,” Roberts said of past uses of special prosecutors.
Asked whether he found Comey’s firing unusual, Roberts, who was first elected to Congress in 1980, said, “Things repeat themselves.”
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Fellow Kansas Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said Tuesday night that the American people deserve more information on the circumstances that led to Comey’s firing, but Moran also did not endorse the idea of a special prosecutor when approached Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
“I’m currently still of the same view that I’ve had for a while, which is the Senate Intelligence Committee, which still seems to be operating in a bipartisan way, is the place where we can best go to those answers,” Moran said.
He did say that having Comey testify before a Senate committee “would be very useful.”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and former Jackson County prosecutor, said in a statement that Trump’s decision to fire Comey strengthens the argument that Congress should push for a special prosecutor.
She noted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe after The Washington Post revealed he had failed to disclose a meeting with the Russian ambassador during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but that Trump relied on Session’s advice before firing Comey.
“As a former prosecutor, I understand the importance of criminal investigations that are free to follow the facts no matter where they lead. This firing appears to interfere with that important principle,” McCaskill said in an email. “An Attorney General who has recused himself from an investigation has now recommended that the head of that investigation be removed. It’s more reason why it’s so important we have an independent prosecutor.”
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, an Overland Park Republican, said in an email that he does not think Comey’s firing will hamper the ongoing investigations.
“I have absolute faith in career FBI agents and their ability to continue conducting fair and thorough investigations, including the probe into Russia’s attempts to influence our electoral process,” Yoder said. “As I’ve said before, I also support continued bipartisan investigations in Congress, and am sure they will go where the facts lead.”
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, has blasted Comey’s firing as a win for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a statement released by his office Wednesday morning, Roberts quoted a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein saying the FBI’s “reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage” over the last year.
Roberts did not explicitly say whether he agreed with this assessment, but the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the “best way to restore trust in the competency of the FBI is with a swift confirmation of a new FBI director.”
Roberts acknowledged the ongoing investigations in his statement but did not comment on how Comey’s firing could affect those probes.
“A Senate bipartisan investigation into Russian election tampering is ongoing and both the Justice Department and the Department of Defense are conducting investigations into the actions of General (Michael) Flynn and others,” he said.
CNN reported Tuesday that grand-jury subpoenas had been issued in the federal probe into Flynn, the former national security adviser who was fired for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, whose district covers western Missouri, backed the president’s decision in a Facebook post.
“Unfortunately, Director Comey had become a lightning rod of controversy when his role needs to be one of unquestioned pursuit of the truth,” Hartzler said. “While his sudden dismissal was unexpected, I believe a timely replacement will enable serious, important investigations to proceed so the results are unquestioned in the minds of Americans. I am hopeful a trusted replacement can be made as expeditiously as possible and the Department can move forward with a renewed focus to seek the truth and ensure justice prevails unhindered by controversy.”
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, has also voiced support for Trump’s decision. U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, a Republican whose district includes North Kansas City, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.